The “Visitors” were those who left small tidbits about the Ladies in letters, or diaries, etc. They are listed here, for ease of reference. Should you have anyone to add to the list, do let me know!
Caroline, Princess of Wales
Lord Edward FitzGerald & Mr. William Ogilvie
Madame de Genlis
The Gosling family
Mary Elizabeth Lucy (née Williams)
Thomas de Quincey
Sir Walter Scott & J.G. Lockhart
Lady Louisa Stuart
The Countess of Upper Ossory & Horace Walpole
The Wordsworth family
Plas Newydd is the place they visited:
Thursday, 5th January 1791 “We this day completed the Purchase of our House.”
— Eleanor Butler, in her journal*
* quoted in Mavor, p. 181.
Plas Newydd (“plass no-with”: New Hall) in Llangollen should not be confused with the National Trust property of the same name (a former home of the Marquess of Anglesey and located at Llanfairpwll on the Isle of Anglesey). Our Plas Newydd, a small and cosy cottage made into a curiosity by the addition of much wood ornamentation, was the home – for about fifty years – of Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler, known collectively as “The Ladies of Llangollen.”
In 1796, Anna Seward wrote about the house, and its situation:
Certainly this interesting retreat of Lady Eleanor Butler, and Miss Ponsonby, might have been placed where it would have had sublimer scenic accompaniments — but its site is sufficiently lovely, sufficiently romantic. When two females meant to sit down for life in a sylvan retirement, with a small establishment of servants, it became necessary that the desire of landscape-charms should become subservient to the more material considerations of health, protection, and convenience. Their scene, not on those wild heights which must have exposed them to the mountain storms, is yet on a dry gravelly bank, favourable to health and exercise, and sheltered by a back-ground of rocks and hills. Instead of seeking the picturesque banks of the dashing river, foaming through its craggy channel, and whose spray and mists must have been confined, and therefore unwholesome, by the vast rocks and mountains towering on either hand, they contented themselves with the briery dell and its prattling brook, which descend abruptly from a reach of that winding walk, which forms the bounds of their smiling, though small domain. Situated in an opener part of the valley, they breathe a purer air, while their vicinity of the town of Langollen affords the comforts of convenience, and the confidence of safety. (Letter to Mary Powys)
And 33 years later, in an 1829 letter, publisher John Murray had this to say:
The cottage is remarkable for the taste of its appropriate fitting up with ancient oak, presented by different friends, from old castle and monasteries, &c., none of it of less antiquity than 1200 years.
In 2002, the Western Mail (Cardiff) ran an article on an 1805 land deed signed by Sarah and Eleanor — when it came up for auction at Sotheby’s.
Today, Plas Newydd is a museum run by the Denbigh County Council. A superb hand-held audio guide system enables visitors to gather information about the house and its inhabitants; there are also guided tours of the servants’quarters. It is open Easter to October, 10:00-5:00. Website (with pictures); BBC website on the Ladies & Plas Newydd; the Denbighshire.gov website; the Llangollen.org website.
As part of the publicity for her novel, Love, above the reach of time, author Anne M. Curren provides a virtual tour of Plas Newydd, in drawing and photograph; the “gothick decoration” of the entry hall (including the black & white floor, the installation of which Eleanor proudly recorded in her diary); the bedchamber, as it appears to visitors today; the dining room, with its beautiful stained glass; the reconstructed gardens; St. Colleen’s Church (the final resting place for Sarah, Eleanor and Mary Carryl); and the ruins of Valle Crucis Abbey – a popular outing for the Ladies. (Note: there are more pictures than the thumbnails on the opening page!)
Gathering the Jewels also provides an interesting set of photographs, including some of the few relics of the Ladies on display at Plas Newydd, like Sarah’s drawstring bag and an exquisite little pair of shoes purportedly belonging to Eleanor; pieces from their Coalport china teaset and their mahogony portable writing desk; most exciting are the portraits: including what may be a youthful Eleanor (Lady in a Tall Hat); the Mary Parker watercolor of 1828 (painted from life, though surreptitiously, the year before Eleanor’s death).